IIF sees currency 'skirmish," urges G20 progress

The global banking industry on Monday urged the Group of 20 economic powers to deliver on pledges to harmonize financial regulation, warning their commitment appears to be fraying.

The new managing director of the Institute of International Finance, Tim Adams, also sought to downplay concerns about a currency war, an issue expected to be at the top of the agenda at G20 finance talks later this week.

Adams said that press reports that the Group of Seven advanced economies were preparing a joint statement in favor of market-determined foreign exchange rates would be an "important step."

Adams said it was critical the G7 and G20 deliver clear communications from the summit to help cool recent currency market volatility.

"Unless some clarity is offered... these movements will continue," he said at a news conference in Washington.

Still, he said, "I don't think we're on the verge of a currency war," though he acknowledged it could be a "skirmish."

Finance ministers and central bankers of the G20 group, the world's most powerful advanced and emerging economies, meet on Friday and Saturday in Moscow.

Speculation about a currency war has been stoked by moves in Japan to weaken the yen, European worries about an overly strong euro, and complaints in emerging markets against the weaker US dollar amid ultra-loose Federal Reserve monetary policy.

Adams stressed "the need for cooperation and coordination" among finance chiefs.

The IIF, which represents more than 450 financial institutions around the world, said its members were "deeply troubled" by the trend toward "increasingly fragmented financial regulation."

The tendency of nations to act to protect their own financial service sectors and taxpayers against risk "is threatening to undo decades of cross-border cooperation," the IIF said.

"If we fail to preserve the spirit -- and the fact -- of international harmonization of financial regulation, we run the risk of inhibiting the global economic regeneration so desperately needed by people everywhere."

In a letter, the IIF called on the G20 powers to renew their willingness to work together, as they had in the 2007-2009 financial crisis, particularly because the recovery remains frail.

"This trend to a more territorial approach, especially ring-fencing assets, capital and liquidity, threatens not only to undo recent movement toward regulatory cooperation under G20 initiatives, but also to set back earlier achievements of cross-border cooperation that have helped fuel global economic growth."

Adams, a former US Treasury under secretary for international affairs, said it was better to focus on financial and fiscal integration, competitiveness and growth "and let market forces determine exchange rates and values."

"Maybe it's time that we take stock of what's been promised and committed to over the past decade and try to achieve those goals before we take on new areas," he said.


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